Retirement, here I come

When I was turned 60, as I began to see some of my colleagues retiring and others working past their best before date, I made the decision that I would stop working when I turned 70. That age seemed impossibly far off at the time. Now that it’s just three months away, I’m asking myself whether I am really ready to say farewell to work.

I’ve talked about retiring for so long that I’m sure many people don’t believe I’m ever going to do it. Some days, I don’t believe it myself. Why would I? I still love the work I do and the incredible people I get to do it with. It’s clear there’s no shortage of it to be done and not likely to be for some time. There’s also that pesky issue of money: for those of us who are self-employed in the not-for-profit sector, the lack of a workplace pension waiting in the wings is certainly an incentive to keep working.

The truth is, though, as interesting as the work continues to be, it’s tiring me more than it did when I was younger. There’s the emotional fatigue, of course, caused by the content of the work, but there’s also the physical fatigue. I used to think nothing of doing two or three major in-person presentations a week, driving myself around the province to do so, but I’m not up for that any more. No longer can I work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for weeks on end. My mind and body just won’t let me, and I don’t want to either produce poor work or damage my health because I am working too much. Hard as it is to admit, I am slowing down – just a bit.

Step one

I tend to be an all or nothing kind of gal, but I’ve come to realize that retirement is one area where I don’t have to be all in or all out. I can let some pieces of what I do go while continuing with others.

I took step one last week, when I wrapped up my role as the Advocacy Director at Luke’s Place. I’ll continue doing special project work with the organization, but I don’t have a title anymore.

This was a hard decision to make. I’ve been working with Luke’s Place since 2007 and, although I have never been an official staff member, the organization and its staff have felt like my home and family. It’s an incredible organization that really lives its mandate by providing women leaving relationships in which they have been subjected to abuse with wrap-around family court supports while also leading change at the systemic level.

It’s a powerful example of making something good out of a tragedy: the death of three-year-old Luke at his father’s hands during his first access visit. It’s also an example of what can happen when a community comes together to build change and when those who are leading that change – in particular, the Executive Director, Carol Barkwell — simply refuse to take no for an answer.

Under Carol’s visionary leadership, I’ve been able to do what I think is the best work of my career. I look forward to continuing to do more good work in my new, less structured role with Luke’s Place.

Step two

My next step is to stop taking on every opportunity for new work that comes my way. This will be hard, because so much of it is really interesting. However, I now have some guidelines that I hope I can stick to.

One, there will always be interesting work, but I don’t have to do it all. Two, even if it’s interesting, if it will take more out of me than I will get out of it, I’m not going to do it.  Three, there has to be more in it for me than the money. Four, I can provide mentorship to women coming into the work rather than doing the work myself.

I have been turning down requests for the past few months. The first two or three were tough, but it’s been getting easier, and I hope to see the number of “no” emails I send increase over the months to come.

Step three

Instead of signing on for long-term projects, I’m going to focus on writing and speaking, both of which have always given me enormous pleasure. My book – I could say my first book, but that would imply there are more to follow, and it’s too early to know that yet – will be coming out in November of this year. Published by Between the Lines Books, It’s called And Sometimes They Kill You: Confronting the epidemic of intimate partner violence.  Stay tuned for more announcements as the publication date gets closer. (And if you’re interested in organizing a book reading/signing where you live, please let me know.)

Step four

I’m not worried about how I’ll spend my time once I am fully retired. My partner and I have plans to travel; mostly within Canada, but we might make a few trips beyond the border.  There are a couple of Kingston not-for-profits that I have always wanted to be able to volunteer with, and I hope to have the time for that in the near future.

I look a glass-blowing workshop when I was working in Whitehorse in February, and I know I’d like to do some more of that. Laugh as you might, I’m planning to sign up for a seniors (not a word I love) line dancing class at our community centre.

Then there’s that stack of books in my office that I just never have time to crack open, and thousands more at the public library.

While I’m not planning to put my feet up entirely, I do look forward to having days where there is nothing in my calendar so I can make spontaneous decisions to do whatever strikes my fancy without worrying about checking email or phone messages or falling behind with a piece of work.

I’m ready to embrace this next time in my life. If not now, when?

4 thoughts on “Retirement, here I come

  1. good on you! There are so many interesting things to do once you don’t have the responsibility of a job. Life is short so make time to enjoy it.
    I just made sourdough bread yesterday, a long process but enjoyable. Haven’t tasted it yet but….
    I found it difficult to lose control but discovered many people had great ideas and I could just enjoy the occasion.
    Glass blowing sounds interesting! My husband is big time into glass and now has a good sized kiln that he uses for slumping etc. Interesting results.

  2. I totally relate to the sort of slowing down. 🙂 I am so happy for you. I can take the ‘no’ messages but have no intention of not finding ways to continue to conspire together.

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